We face the same question, on a daily basis, from our prospective Maine Social Security disability clients: I have been disabled from working for a number of months, and, prior to contacting your office, I filed a disability claim. I have since been denied. Would you recommend that we appeal this denial at this time? Will you assist with our appeal?
The answer may seem to be obvious. However, after practicing in the area of Social Security disability law in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire for going on 27 years, my answer to these potential clients is not always what you would probably expect: that is, to appeal. When analyzing how to proceed, it is always important to assess initially whether the particular potential client is suffering from a severe disabling condition that is likely to remain disabled from undertaking any manner of gainful employment for what is likely to be a year or longer. If this is not so clear, then it may very well have been premature to file a disability claim, and waiting to pursue a Social Security disability claim may likewise be premature. Even assuming that the individual is likely to remain so disabled for a year or longer from working, then the next question we ask is whether it makes more sense for the individual to consider a request for reconsideration (in which circumstances the case will go back to the state agency that initially denied the case, that is, Disability Determination Services (DDS) out of Augusta, Maine) or to consider filing a new application down the road (when the individual would be able to show that they have remained disabled from working for what is closer to a year’s period of time). The problem with filing the request for reconsideration process is that there is a very high denial rate, and, in the vast majority of cases, DDS will undertake a rubber stamp denial of the initial claim.
It is important to understand that in the State of Maine the reconsideration process is taking anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and if denied once again, it would be necessary to file a request for hearing. As we’ve gone over recently in one of our prior blog entries, the wait for a hearing in Maine is averaging 15 months. Thus, by appealing the claim, one is faced with the prospect of another denial 3 to 6 months down the road with an additional 15 month wait for a hearing (once the hearing request has been filed). We find in many circumstances it makes more sense to start the process over, with the benefit of a knowledgeable and experienced Maine Social Security Lawyer who can help you undertake a new application once you have been disabled for closer to a year’s period of time. Not only will be assured that the paperwork is done correctly and completely, but your lawyer will be in a position to assist you with obtaining helpful reports from your doctors that address the severity of your condition and how it’s impacting your ability to function in a work environment. Thus, you will face a much better chance of winning your case when you’ve been able to show through ongoing treatment that your condition has remained severe and disabling, despite prescribed treatment for what is closer to a year. Likewise, there is no risk of losing benefits by filing a new claim: a prior claim can be reopened within 1 year of your prior denial for any reason (and, likewise, it is important to understand that Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits are payable as far back as 1 year prior to your filing, assuming you’ve met a 5 full month waiting period). Finally, and most importantly, the decision on a new claim will come much more quickly than will a decision following hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
Given the above, before filing an initial claim (or, for that matter, before filing an appeal of a recently denied claim), get the advice and assistance of a Maine Social Security Lawyer who has been assisting Maine’s injured and disabled for more than 27 years. Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 now for a free evaluation of your case and see what the best options are for your particular case.